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Yesterday I mentioned the 9th century Irish poem Pangur Ban (the name of the white cat of the author, an Irish monk/scholar). Some things just don’t change, despite the time between us and when this poem was written.
On the surface this is an ode to a cat, but beyond that it is also about the difficulty of perfecting a skill that requires the mind to work; solving problems, fighting the minds tendency to wander and the solitude of such work, and yet finding happiness, achievement and wisdom in our efforts.

Here we go, an English translation (by Robin Flower) of the Gaelic original:

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

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